Monday, November 2, 2015


Autumn's annual color show is pretty much over for another year. Here along my hundred-yard portion of the river, where the dominating tree species are sycamore, hackberry, and box elder, fall never quite manages to put on that quintessential eye-catching seasonal performance. None of those expected Technicolor scenes characterized by patchwork forests, thick with various bright maples, and invariably favored by calendar publishers. 

Oh, there are a few willows and a walnut here and there to light things up with their snazzy yellows. But no blood-red swamp maples or festive-orange sassafras. The closest these corridor woodlands come to such vibrant hues are the scarlet twinnings of woodbine and the gaudy flames of poison ivy. Plus way too much invasive honeysuckle, which—at best—dons a sickly and pale yellow-green.

Instead of dazzle my home-turf trees deal in subtlety. Especially the sycamores, who often decide to retain their oversized leaves for a few more weeks. You have to adjust your eye and your thinking to fully appreciate their richness. 

But in earliest soft glimmer of morning, with a backlight assist from the sun, or some blue sky for background—even simply floating atop the water—they are, unquestionably, beautiful. 

Who says brown is boring!        


Sunday, October 4, 2015


Times are a'changing. It's increasingly starting to look like autumn here along the river. Not much in the way of color yet, as other than poison ivy and Virginia creeper, there are few early-turning sorts of trees and shrubs hereabouts to dazzle with gaudy leaves. A few bits of anemic yellow on the box elders, the odd rusty brown dinner-plate-sized leaf on a sycamore—but otherwise, the landscape is still mostly green. Faded and frayed, perhaps, but green.

The real color will come in a week or two, maybe three. Somewhere around the 26th of the month is usually the peak.

And yet…there's no mistaking the new season's takeover. The look and feel, sound and smell and mood is definitely autumnal, from the noisy flocks of Canada geese regularly winging overhead, to the dew-damp morning air carrying hints of windfall apples and distant woodsmoke.

Yesterday was rainy and cool. No, make that cold—the day's high never managing to edge beyond the mid-40s˚F. Cold enough that Myladylove built the season's first fire in the woodstove. Which felt good and was most welcome, as it took a decidedly uncomfortable chill from the house while we worked between showers to finish a handful of small jobs on our endless remodeling list. 

Today promises to be fairly sunny and reach into the low-70s˚; so no woodfire will be needed. But a milepost has been passed nevertheless. The times are definitely a'changing.              

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Still working on the remodel…though Myladylove and I decided to play hooky from our list of planned tasks Sunday for a much-needed break. 

Instead of painting a wall and a pair of doors, custom building an over-the-stove kitchen shelf, and assembling a pile of Ikea cabinets, we went for a long drive—an all-day, 200 mile loop that took us north and west, along bucolic two-lane blacktops and narrow country byways, around a rather distant large lake I've known and fished since boyhood, and through more than a dozen small towns and rural villages.

Along the way we had ice cream cones from our favorite soft-serve stand, stopped to browse in a couple of craft shops, and ate a dandy dinner at a little restaurant overlooking the lakeshore, where we further indulged with great wedges of homemade pie…peanut-butter cream for Myladylove, rhubarb for me. 

Afterwards I snapped a few photos—of gulls and geese and the sprawling autumn landscape below a twilit sky, dramatically lit by the low sun against a band of dark clouds, which momentarily seemed to threaten a weather change. Soon, however, the sun set, the clouds dispersed, and twilight became darkness. We happily zigged and zagged our way south and east to home along a complicated-but-familiar series of backroads.

All told, a fine day's escape and the best sort of impromptu adventure. Today and yesterday, though, it's been back to work. Guilt and desperation see to that…


Friday, September 11, 2015


Yesterday evening, as I was rolling the toter up the driveway to the road for today's trash pick-up, I noticed this lovely little pearl crescent butterfly dramatically sidelit by the setting sun. Though I haven't made a photo in at least a week, it was too pretty a moment to resist…so I left the barrel parked on the hill, hurried to grab a camera, and barely had time to make just this single image before the light faded.

It's the first creative act I've managed in awhile that hasn't involved a power tool or hammer.    

My whole-cottage remodeling project continues. 

So far I've removed a wall and enlarged the rear entry area. Put up new walls on both sides of the hall. Framed in a new doorway to the laundry room. Installed new jambs, headers, and thresholds on seven doorways. Removed a wall in the bathroom. Finished one wall in the kitchen. I've built a pantry, linen closet, and "rustic" bathroom door. Ran crown moldings and door casings. Painted. 

Which doesn't sound like much, all told, but has occupied almost my every waking moment from right after breakfast until well after dark. I'm now working on the cook-stove/food-prep side of the kitchen.   

Myladylove took off to Tennessee yesterday morning for a brief parental visit; she'll be back Monday. Wait 'til she sees I've moved the refrigerator and microwave into the living room.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Official autumn is still a month away. But yesterday—except for the lack of bright, multi-colored leaves—could have easily been mistaken for a day in late-September or early-October. 

The sky was high and that same intense fall blue. Temperatures early in the morning began in the mid-50s˚F and never made it above the mid-70s˚F at their afternoon highest. And throughout, a gusty breeze regularly rattled the treetops and caused the occasional phalanx of puffy white clouds to go scudding across the sky at a rapid pace.

I spent the day, as I've spent almost every day for a few weeks now, working on my cottage remodeling. Making hay while the sun shines, as my mother used to say. I'm almost finished with the hallway walls and doors, and next will start on the kitchen. 

But time is running out on my being able to set up the sawhorses to cut, fit, and finish things outdoors. Having no garage, my makeshift workshop is at the mercy of the weather. Too soon I'll have to begin cutting firewood…and after that bad weather will likely quell any major carpentry for another year. 

A young groundhog—likely the same one whose photo I posted with its mother some weeks back—has decided to bivouac under the front deck. Every so often he ventures into an overgrown bed of hostas I've planted under the doorway box elder—sometimes startling me with his piercing alarm whistle. An amazingly loud whistle when heard at close range. There's a good reason that in addition to groundhog, another common name for a woodchuck is whistlepig. 

Finally…yesterday evening, on a uncharacteristic whim, I decided to Google the names of several friends and family members I'd lost touch with over the years. I'd barely begun when the obituary for a first cousin popped up. The eldest of my Uncle Paul's two daughters, and a half-dozen years older than me, she'd passed away only a few days ago. Her funeral had been held that morning.

Though she and her family lived several hundred miles from here, I would have attended…but had no idea she was facing serious health issues. It's probably been ten years since the last time I stopped by her home in Michigan for a visit. 

But the fact such a sorry situation existed was as much my fault as anyone's. Once our parents died, we cousins—offspring of the original five brothers and three sisters—sort of went our separate ways. Not out of any animosity, simply more ennui and location. Those who lived close to one another stayed connected; the rest of us, scattered around the country from here to the West Coast, gradually drifted away from the communication fold. I don't have a single phone number, email address, or street address for anyone…and so far as I know, none of them have anything of mine. So they couldn't have easily contacted me if they'd tried—which they very well may have attempted. 

Alas, it was too late for me to even send flowers… 

Thursday, August 6, 2015


This post has nothing to do with damselflies. Except that yesterday, as I cut and shaped pieces of dimensional lumber for my latest cottage remodeling project, dozens of iridescent damselflies, such as the ebony jewelwing (above) plus various species of dancers, bluets, forktails, and slenderwings—in a host of breathtaking colors—zipped around, sometimes pausing for a quick rest on the sawhorses, energized by the bright sunlight's summery heat.

Today it feels like another season. Even now, at 2:00 p.m., the day's high is still a ridiculously chilly 62˚F! That's at least 25 degrees below the usual expectations for this time of year in southwest Ohio. Flat too cold for August hereabouts! Nor is there much hope temperatures will rise more than a degree or two between now and nightfall—and tonight it's predicted the low will dip into the mid-50s˚F.  

If this wasn't bad enough, it's been raining since before dawn. A steady drizzle that occasionally increases to a near downpour. And of course the sky is low—a dim, dark charcoal gray the shade of dirty wool.  

As you might surmise, there are no vividly hued damselflies zipping around! 

Moreover, I can't work on my latest carpentry project because, lacking a garage or other dry interior space, I have to wait for better weather before I can set up shop in the yard. So in spite of being all energized for a day's work, I'm instead forced to quashed my plans. A rained-out, froze-out, time-out.          

Last night, just before we turned off the TV and headed to bed, Myladylove sat bolt upright, sniffed, then wrinkled her nose. 

"Ugghh!" she said, giving me an annoyed glance. "What's that awful smell?"

Myladylove has the olfactory sensitivity of a bloodhound. I'm not exaggerating when I say she's phenomenal at detecting and discerning scents. I've never met another human being with even half her nose prowess. 

While my own scenting capabilities didn't approached her level, I used to be above average at sniffing things out. But a couple of months ago, when I first got sick and went on my initial round of medications, my trusty sense of smell mostly vanished. It has yet to return. Currently, I can crush a handful of peppermint leaves, hold them against my nose, and barely catch a whiff of their strong scent. The same goes for mentholated rub, aftershave, woodsmoke…and, apparently, skunk. 

"Dunno," I said, with an ineffective shrug. "I can't smell anything."     
She shot me another irritated look, sniffed again, then answered her own question: "Skunk!"

At which point she sprang up and hastily closed the screen where the offending musky smell was flooding through—drawn in by the big window-mounted fan on the opposite side of the room that busily pushes air out. Her actions were accompanied by overly-dramatic sounds of gagging, retching, and imminent asphyxiation.

I had more sense than to rise to that particular ploy. No use getting blamed for the behavior of a stinky skunk. It's against my nature, but I've learned when to remain silent. A savvy survival instinct. 

But I should have paid better attention to the omen-bearing skunk, even if I couldn't smell it. I do believe the critter was delivering a malodorous prophecy…for today has been a real stinker!        

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes who eventually—and to the surprise of many—returned to 221B Baker Street after falling off Reichenbach Falls. 

Not that I see myself as any sort of latter-day incarnation of the world's most famous consulting detective. Rather, it's merely that rumors and mutterings of his apparent death, while locked in mortal combat with the evil Professor Moriarty, proved blessedly premature. 

When he did eventually return to his work and lodgings, that period of prolonged absence came to be known ever after as the Great Hiatus.

I never fell over a falls, or down a rabbit hole. Nether have I heard actual rumors and mutterings of my own demise, though several concerned friends—knowing I'd been desperately sick and didn't seem to be getting well—were worried enough to email and check about the seriousness of things given my continued silence. 

The truth is, I was worried too. The illness that began way back in May carried all through June and most of July. I saw doctors, took regimes of various antibiotics and other medications, and felt too bad to do much of anything other than rest. But none of it helped…or maybe it did, but only in that it kept things from turning even worse.

However, the good—no, great!—news is that a bit more than a week ago I started to improve. And by the middle of this past week I was not only back to normal, but better than normal—the best I've felt in several years. So good that I've been able to finally start work on the cottage which I'd planned to begin this spring.

I didn't want to write this report until I had something positive to say. And I wanted to be sure, because I know everyone is tired of hearing and reading my posts whining about being sick, feeling bad, blah, blah, blah. 

Believe me, I was tired of writing them. 

So have returned from my own Great Hiatus, I'll now get back to posting here—probably not daily, given all the projects I need to finish on the cottage—but regularly. And making photos, even if it's just a half-hour stop somewhere on the way to or from the building supplies or grocery store. 

To those who kept me in your thoughts and prayers, thank you—sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. It meant more than you can imagine. And I have no doubt it made all the difference. 

As the Godfather of Soul so inimitably said: I FEEL GOOD!